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A Canadian team is competing in a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament
OK, water polo isn’t exactly the most popular sport in Canada. And we’re not exactly an Olympic powerhouse. The country’s high-water mark is a fifth-place finish by the women’s team in 2000. The men’s team has never placed better than ninth. Neither squad managed to even qualify for the previous two Summer Olympics.
But, regardless of the sport or Canada’s medal chances, a do-or-die Olympic qualifier is exciting. And it’s been a while. The men’s water polo world qualification tournament happening right now in the Netherlands is the first event of this sort that a Canadian team has competed in since the pandemic hit. Here’s what you should know about it:
How it works: Three spots in the 12-team Olympic men’s tournament are still up for grabs, and they’ll all be decided by the end of this week at the qualifier. The 12 countries involved are split into two groups for round-robin play. When that’s over, the top four in each group advance to the cross-over quarter-finals, which are single-elimination. Both semifinal winners qualify for Tokyo, while the losers play for the last Olympic spot in the third-place game.
How Canada is doing: Today’s 14-11 loss to Georgia dropped Canada’s record to 1-2. The Canadians, who are ranked 13th in the world, now sit fourth in Group A. But their chances of advancing got a boost yesterday when another Group A team, Turkey, was disqualified from the tournament because of a coronavirus outbreak before its opening game. So all Canada has to do to advance is not finish last in the group. That spot currently belongs to 0-3 Brazil, which Canada defeated on Sunday. The Canadians’ final round-robin game is Thursday vs. Greece (2-0). Watch it live at 8:30 a.m. ET here.
If you’re wondering about the Canadian women’s team, good news: they’ve already qualified for Tokyo. They’re ranked sixth in the world, and their Olympic tournament has 10 teams.
Another Canadian politician has called for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to be relocated. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said today that China should be stripped of the Games because of what he called the “genocide” the country has committed against the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority. O’Toole also cited China’s actions in Hong Kong and the ongoing detention of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. He said that if relocation of the ’22 Olympics isn’t possible and China doesn’t change its “conduct,” then a boycott should be considered. Green Party leader Annamie Paul has also said the ’22 Olympics should be moved out of China, and a multi-party group of 13 MPs released an open letter calling for relocation. Read more about O’Toole’s comments here and more about the Beijing boycott debate here.
The Australian Open delivered the matchup everyone wanted. The two biggest stars in the women’s draw — and the two highest-earning female athletes in the world — will face each other in the semifinals when Naomi Osaka takes on Serena Williams. Osaka, seeded third, is going for her second Aussie Open title in three years and her fourth career Grand Slam trophy. Williams, seeded 10th, hasn’t won a Slam since the 2017 Australian Open and still needs one more to match Margaret Court’s all-time singles record of 24. Osaka is 2-1 lifetime against Williams, but Serena won their most recent meeting, in 2019 in Toronto. The other women’s semifinal matchup will be decided tonight. World No. 1 Ash Barty takes on 25th-seeded Karolina Muchova, while No. 22 Jennifer Brady faces unseeded Jessica Pegula, who is the daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula. Read about all the latest Aussie Open results here.
Two Canadians are still competing Down Under. None of the seven Canadians in the Australian Open singles draws made it past the fourth round. None are left in the men’s or women’s doubles draws either, and there were no Canadians in the wheelchair tournaments. But Gabriela Dabrowski is still alive in mixed doubles, where she and her Croatian teammate Mate Pavic are seeded third and have reached the quarter-finals. And Bianca Andreescu has reached the quarter-finals at the Phillip Island Trophy — an event for players who either didn’t qualify for the Aussie Open or, like Andreescu, were eliminated early. Her next opponent is 74th-ranked Irina-Camelia Begu.
Mikaela Shiffrin won another world title. Her dominant victory in yesterday’s women’s combined event at the alpine skiing world championships in northern Italy gave Shiffrin her sixth world title. That broke the American record held by the just-retired Ted Ligety, who is 11 years older. Shiffrin, 25, has won at least one gold medal in all seven of the world championships or Olympics she’s competed in. Wednesday’s world championship race is the mixed team parallel slalom, a relatively new event in which skiers go head-to-head on identical courses — first to the bottom wins the heat. Watch it live at 6:15 a.m. ET here.
The world’s longest hockey game was also one of the coldest. Rotating in and out on an outdoor rink near Edmonton, 40 people played a game lasting 252 hours — breaking the Guinness World Record of 251 hours set by the same event last year. Some other impressive things about this year’s edition of the World’s Longest Game: it raised more than $1.8 million for cancer research at the University of Alberta, they actually kept score for the whole thing (Team Hope beat Team Cure 2,649-2,528) and players braved temperatures as frigid as minus-55 C with the windchill. That was cold enough to break pucks and skate blades, and yet players still stayed out on the ice for 6-10 hours at a time (Kovalevian!) and slept in trailers during their “breaks.” Read more about this super-Canadian feat of physical and emotional endurance here.
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